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Alber Elbaz is the modern romantic who found his perfect match in Lanvin, the Parisian house where he has been artistic director since 2001. His signature designs for the label – pleated silk dresses, satin ribbon details and costume jewellery – are now among the most sought-after in fashion, making his switchback route to success all the more surprising.

Elbaz was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and raised in the suburbs of Tel Aviv by his mother, a Spanish artist. His father, an Israeli barber, died when he was young. He studied at the Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion, Tel Aviv, but received some of his most valuable training in New York, where for seven years he was right hand man to the late Geoffrey Beene, couturier to East Coast high society.

In 1996, Elbaz was appointed head of ready-to-wear for Guy Laroche in Paris, where he remained for almost three years. In November 1998 he was appointed artistic director for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, effectively taking over design duties from Saint Laurent himself.

In his tenure at YSL, Elbaz attracted a younger clientele – Chloe Sevigny wore one of his dresses to the Oscars. However, at the start of 2000 big business intervened when the Gucci Group took control of YSL Rive Gauche and Tom Ford stepped into Elbaz’s position. Following a short but successful spell at Milanese brand Krizia and time out travelling the world, in October 2001 Elbaz returned to French fashion via Lanvin, the couture house founded by Jeanne Lanvin in the 1880s.

Under his direction, Lanvin has developed jewellery, shoe and handbag collections. His most outstanding talent however is for the creation of ultra-feminine cocktail dresses that are the epitome of Parisian chic. In 2005, he won the CFDA’s International Award. Fashion’s favourite comeback kid, Elbaz also wears bow ties very well.

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